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[MOSCOW] Western countries are trying to use the Ukraine conflict to topple President Vladimir Putin and wreck Russia's economy, the president's spokesman said in an interview published on Wednesday.
"In the West they are trying to kick out Putin, to isolate him in international politics, to throttle Russia economically due to their interests, to bring down Putin," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"If it was not for Crimea, they would think up another reason," Mr Peskov claimed in an interview with Argumenty i Fakty weekly.
He insisted that Russia's economic situation was under control despite "illegal sanctions" over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, which along with low oil prices have led to the ruble plunging in value.
"I'll remind you what Mr Putin said (in December): everything is under control, we know what to do, how to do it, and we have everything we need to do it."
Mr Peskov said Russia could not resolve the crisis in Ukraine as the West demands.
"Everything that Russia can do to end the conflict, it is already doing," Mr Peskov said, pointing to humanitarian aid and supplies of coal and electricity.
"But Russia cannot resolve this conflict within Ukraine."
He said that Kiev needs "to start talking to its own regions."
"Germany, France, Russia and the OSCE can act as guarantors for a settlement," Mr Peskov added.
"We hope the Minsk group will continue its work and as a result there will be grounds for a meeting of leaders..., which is planned to be held in Astana. But the meeting will only happen if it can give some concrete results," he said.
Mr Peskov conceded that despite euphoria over Crimea's annexation, Russia was in "an anxious state" due to "open confrontation from countries in the West - an ideological, media, political and diplomatic (confrontation) but thank God not a military one."
"This confrontation makes us all expect a crisis," Mr Peskov said.
The events in Ukraine "tore off the masks from international diplomacy," he added.
He cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying in an interview last week that Mr Putin should not expect an invitation to a G7 meeting because the countries within it shared common values.
"By the way, Mr Putin isn't expecting one," Mr Peskov added.
"I'm sure the West will never get rid of us," he said, adding that "isolationism would be a mistake."